FIFA President Sepp Blatter has deflected the blame for the corruption scandal that has rocked world football’s governing body, instead pointing to actions by individuals from the continental federations.
In a lengthy interview in the Swiss magazine Weltwoche, published on Thursday, Blatter maintained his view that FIFA had done nothing wrong.
“Our influence over contracts concluded by the confederations is practically zero. We can only control our own flows of money at FIFA," said Blatter.
Asked whether he bore any responsibility as the head of FIFA, Blatter replied that crime was a part of all walks of life.
“It is impossible to stamp out robbery and murder, even with a functioning courts system down to community level,” Blatter said. “Football is not better than our society.”
FIFA has been plunged into crisis after 14 sports marketing executives and soccer officials, including several from Zurich-based FIFA, were indicted by the United States in late May on bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges.
Seven of those accused were arrested by Swiss police in a dawn raid on a luxury Zurich hotel two days before the FIFA Congress, where Blatter was re-elected for a fifth term as president. They are in custody awaiting extradition to the U.S. The dawn arrests in Zurich came hours before Swiss prosecutors announced a separate criminal investigation into the 2018 and 2022 football World Cup bids won by Russia and Qatar, respectively.
US prosecutors have not accused Blatter of any wrongdoing. But in a shock announcement four days after the May arrests in Zurich, Blatter said he would lay down his mandate at an extraordinary FIFA Congress which will take place between December and February, and that he would not stand as a candidate.
Blatter reemphasised his decision to step down in his interview with the Weltwoche, saying he would leave FIFA even if the extraordinary congress asked him to stay. He added, however, that he thought the criticism against him was rooted in envy.
“This envy has been festering for years. Envy is a predicate to jealousy. And jealousy is rooted in love. This can however turn to hate. And that's what happened when this tsunami hit us two days before the congress,” he said.
Blatter said the root of the envy was in part the appointment of Brazilian João Havelange as FIFA president in 1974 instead of the English candidate Sir Stanley Rous.
“At that point England lost their supremacy over their beloved sport, and also over athletics… The English suffer by no longer being able to control football. This is where the attacks against FIFA originated,” he claimed.
Asked why he didn‘t do more to prevent any wrongdoing within his organisation, Blatter answered sarcastically: “I not only see everything, I'm responsible for everything, even for the English women's own goal at the World Cup recently. . . .Am I responsible for climate change too?”
Blatter did admit one failing, however. He said he had made an “error of judgement” in believing that he could implement the reforms decided by FIFA’s Congress within the organisation.
Last Sunday the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper also carried an interview with the FIFA president in which he defended his position despite the scandal engulfing FIFA.
“Is FIFA responsible from the top down for everything in football, what happens in some village somewhere around the world?” asked Blatter.
“Everyone has fears, for example of death, but with regard to my work at FIFA I have no fear. I've nothing to be afraid of.”
In the interview he said French and German presidents had applied political pressure before the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were awarded to Russia and Qatar, respectively.
He said that "there were two political interventions" – from former French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German counterpart Christian Wulff – before the hosts were announced on December 2, 2010.
On Thursday former FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer, a key figure in the US corruption investigation, was banned for life from football activities by the sport's governing body.
Blazer, who in 2013 secretly pleaded guilty in the United States to bribery and financial offences, was found by FIFA's ethics committee to have breached rules on loyalty, confidentiality, duty of disclosure, conflicts of interest, offering and accepting gifts and bribery and corruption.
Blazer, who was general secretary of CONCACAF, the regional football body governing North and Central America and the Caribbean, became a cooperating witness in the US probe, which has hit FIFA and pressured Blatter to step down.
swissinfo.ch with agencies